When we have grocery stores lined with everything imaginable and the ability to buy many of these things, it’s hard to imagine a culture who couldn’t afford wheat flour for bread, or who might simply choose not to buy it. Instead, the independent people of Appalachia subsisted on mostly homegrown foods with a few staples brought in.
One of those foods is cornmeal, and many of these folks, according to the Foxfire books, grew that corn themselves. And so, cornbread and muffins and cakes became the staff of life for them. Called corn cakes, johnny cakes, hoe cakes and more; these fried cakes are mixed together in a single bowl and fried in home-rendered lard. For that reason, this griddle bread has a place at our table frequently.
I like to serve them alongside a pot of flavorful beans, but they work just as well as pancakes for breakfast or topped with a fried egg for lunch. And because the mixture only contains cornmeal, and no wheat flour, they are also gluten-free.
And these beans… they are a humble, frugal food kicked up with just a couple of delicious ingredients. They also happen to marry quite nicely with the rich corn cakes. I’ve been cooking beans in my solar cooker lately, but you could also make these in a crock pot on a deck to cut down on the heat in your kitchen.
Perfectly rich and crispy on the outside, light and airy on the inside, and substantial enough to stand on their own; we love these corn cakes. I do try to source non-GMO cornmeal and find this Hodgson Mills brand locally or this Great River Organics brand in bulk to be the best value for us.
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup milk or water
- 2 cups whole grain stone-ground cornmeal
- scant 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4-1/2 cup lard or coconut oil for frying
- Preheat a large cast-iron skillet or griddle over medium heat.
- In a medium bowl, beat the eggs together with the milk or water. Scoop the cornmeal into the bowl, atop the liquid ingredients, and follow that up with the salt and the baking powder. Mix these ingredients just until combined.
- Once your griddle is hot, add about 1/4 cup of lard to the pan. Scoop batter into pan using a 1/4 cup scoop and fry cakes for several minutes, until the edges begin to set up.
- Flip and fry the other side 2-4 more minutes. Remove from pan and continue with remaining batter.
- Serve hot.
Spiced just right and with enough zing from the lime juice to make beans an interesting main dish, you’ll want to give this dish a try. Black beans are a welcome swap out for pinto beans in this dish. And, for more on why beans can be hard to digest and how to make them easier on the belly see this article.
- 2 pounds pinto beans
- 1 large onion diced
- 4 jalapenos seeded and minced
- 4 small limes juice of
- water as needed
- sea salt to taste
- Soak the pinto beans for 12-24 hours. Drain, rinse, and cover with water by two inches and bring to a boil. Skim any foam that comes to the top of the pot, turn the heat to low, and add onion and jalapeno.
- Simmer beans, covered, for 1-2 hours or until completely tender. Once the beans are tender, assess the liquid level. If there is too much bring to a boil and boil down some of the bean liquor. If not, remove from heat and add lime juice and salt to taste.